Student accused of rape can now question witnesses, a California court decided Friday

A California judge condemned USC’s handling of sexual assault cases in a 3-0 ruling on Friday, referencing the expulsion of a former USC football player who was accused of raping a fellow student in October 2014.

This ruling was made in light of controversial new rules that have been proposed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, many of which enhance the rights of the accused.

The decision overturns USC’s findings that the former athlete, referred to as John Doe in the case, had violated the University’s student code of conduct.

The University’s disciplinary review process for the sexual assault case “failed to provide a fair hearing” for Doe, according to the case file.

After Doe was accused of sexual assault by a student referred to as Jane Roe in the case, USC’s Title IX office conducted an investigation which resulted in Doe’s expulsion.

The ruling states that Doe will have the opportunity to question witnesses in front of a neutral fact-finder.

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, USC wrote that its review process was “in compliance with its student conduct policies and with state and federal laws in place at the time of the investigation.”

“When this case was investigated and at the time the Superior Court heard the petition, no case in California required a private university to conduct a live hearing or to permit the responding student to confront and cross examine either the complainant or witnesses,” USC wrote.

USC addressed the changing standards in the ways universities handle sexual assault cases and wrote that “USC will keep abreast of these evolving judicial interpretations and requirements.”

This is not the first time a court has ruled USC’s Title IX investigations as unfair. Last year, a judge ordered the University to pay $111,965 in legal fees to a student who was accused of sexual assault in 2016 after deeming USC’s disciplinary process to be biased.

Both the 2014 and 2016 accused students are represented by lawyer Mark Hathaway. Hathaway did not respond to request for comment at the time of publication.